- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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On Monday we’re starting a new series examining the most indispensable player for every team in the Big 12. In other words, who is the player each team could least afford to lose to injury?
We’re knocking on wood before we turn in these posts; so no need to worry about a jinx.
Starting this off -- the Baylor Bears.
Most indispensable player: Quarterback Bryce Petty
2013 stats: Completed 62 percent of his passes for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns and threw just three interceptions. Also rushed for 209 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Why Baylor can't afford to lose him: No team can afford to lose its starting quarterback. But a reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year who will be on the short list of preseason Heisman contenders is the very definition of indispensable.
The Baylor offense might be loaded again with playmakers such as wideouts Antwan Goodley and Corey Coleman and running backs Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson. But Petty is the engine that makes the Bears' high-powered offensive machine hum.
Petty threw for at least 200 yards and two touchdowns in every game last season as Baylor captured its first Big 12 title while leading the nation in scoring.
Even after losing running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, left tackle Spencer Drango and wideout Tevin Reese to injuries, the Bears still featured one of the nation’s top-10 offenses during the month of November. Baylor’s system and Petty’s poise were the biggest reasons why.
With a season of experience under his belt, Petty should be even sharper in 2014, which is almost unfathomable considering he threw only three interceptions and finished fifth in the country in Adjusted Total QBR as a first-time starter last season. This offseason, Petty has worked with quarterback coach George Whitfield Jr. to sharpen his pocket presence and improve his accuracy against pressure.
The Bears actually have a viable backup quarterback in Seth Russell, who performed well in limited duty as a freshman last season. But Baylor’s best -- and probably only -- chance of defending its Big 12 crown is with Petty operating behind center. That easily makes him the most indispensable player on the Baylor roster -- and one of the most indispensable players in all of college football.
3dDavid M. Hale